How to Get Rid of Ants in the Trash: Our Complete Guide

Do you have ants in your trash?

If so, you’re not alone. Ants are common pests that can be found in all kinds of environments. Ants are attracted to food and moisture, so they often infest kitchens and bathrooms.

In this guide, we will teach you how to get rid of ants in the trash using a variety of methods. We will also provide some helpful tips on preventing them from coming back.

Let’s get started!

How to Get Rid of Ants in the Trash Our Complete Guide

Ants in Your Trash? Our Guide for Removal and Deterring Ants

Your garbage has many things that ants are attracted to, such as:

  • Food scraps
  • Food waste
  • Liquid

When you consider the items in your garbage, it is easy to see why it is a target for these annoying pests and other pests too.

Let’s take a look at the tips to get rid of ants in your trash.

Identify the type of ants you’re dealing with

ants on floor

You can find many different types of ants in your garbage can, but the most common are common black garden ants, pavement ants, and carpenter ants.

Common black garden ants are one of the most common throughout the world (hence the name).

Pavement ants are small black ants that often build their nests in the cracks of sidewalks and driveways. They are attracted to food and moisture, so they usually infest kitchens and bathrooms.

Carpenter ants are larger ants that are black or red. They get their name from the fact that they build their nests by hollowing out wood. Carpenter ants are attracted to damp and rotting wood often found in basements and crawl spaces.

Once you have identified the type of ants you’re dealing with, you can move on to the next step.

Remove the garbage can from its current location

Let’s get that garbage can out of there!

Not only will removing the garbage offer the opportunity to clean it up in a better place, but it will also disrupt the ant flow back to the nest.

As you may know, ants leave pheromone trails, alerting other ants to the presence of a food supply (your trash can).

Clean the area around the garbage can thoroughly.


The best way to get rid of ants in the trash is to clean the area around the garbage can thoroughly.

The first thing to do is remove any trash. Then you should clean the car thoroughly.

I’ve used a combination of boiling water and bleach to perform a deep clean and kill the ants that are still in the garbage can.

It goes without saying that if you choose this method, you should always be extremely careful when handling boiling water and also when using bleach.

Vinegar is an excellent cleaning ingredient that is excellent for removing ants.

Search the area for ant nests, colonies, or anthills

ant nest

To get rid of ants in the trash, you need to search for their nests. Find out where the ants are coming from. This can be done by looking for colonies or anthills near your garbage can. Follow any ants marching in a line until you get to their nest.

Once you have found the ant colonies, you can begin to treat them.

There are a few different ways to treat an ant nest.

My way? I go with simply pouring boiling water into the nest. Again, please be very careful with boiling water if you choose this strategy. There are other options, like vinegar or lemon juice.

This will kill the ants and their eggs immediately. I’ll then set up some ant traps to catch the ones I missed.

Another way is to use a pesticide. Be sure to follow the directions on the pesticide label, as some pesticides can be harmful to humans if misused.

Place a sticky barrier around the edge of the garbage can lid

If ants are a problem in your trash, placing a sticky barrier around the edge of the lid can help solve the issue. For example, you can buy adhesive barriers at most stores or make your own by coating the edge of the cover with petroleum jelly or cooking oil.

The idea is the sticky barrier will trap the ants before they get into your trash, disrupting the flow of ants and the message back to the nest.

Put the garbage can back in its original spot.

Once you have cleaned the area and deep cleaned your garbage can, it is time to put it back.

Once you have put it back, check the local area to ensure you have not missed anything obvious, such as:

  • Ant nest/colony
  • An extensive collection of stray ants
  • Discarded food or drinks (including containers)

Treat minor ant invasions

ant trap (1)

Diatomaceous earth is an excellent ant killer and should be used regularly to kill any ants that make it past the sticky trap.

Every week, sprinkle 1/4 cup of diatomaceous earth inside the garbage can on top of the garbage.

You can also make a natural ant repellant by combining water and white vinegar (50/50) into a spray bottle. Apply directly onto areas where the ants are, and you can also use it for cleaning! Vinegar is excellent at getting rid of ants in and around your home.

Some essential oils repel ants, too, such as:

  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Cinnamon

You can also use a combination of borax and honey to kill ants naturally. It doesn’t deter ants, but it will help to control them.

**Before using borax, click here to read how to use it safely*

Finally, set up ant bait stations around the area. Bait stations are excellent because they contain ant poison which they will take back to the nest for a wider impact. Bait stations do not prevent ants, but they do help to control them.

Monitor the situation to ensure that the ants don’t return

Finally, you must perform regular checks to ensure they do not return in droves.

You will have a small number of ants enter the trash can; it’s nature! But, your sticky trap, diatomaceous earth, and a keen eye will stop a further ant infestation.

Can I do anything else to stop ants from getting into my trash can?

Yes – and it includes upgrading your trash can. Ants are tiny and only need a small opening to get into the food or water supply.

You can purchase trash cans with an air-tight lid – that will stop ants from getting in using the biggest of all entry points and stop further ant infestations in your garbage.


So, there you have it! Our complete guide on how to get rid of ants in the trash.

We hope you found this information helpful and that you are now able to deal with any ant problems you may be having effectively.

You should empty your trash regularly too. By reducing the food source, you will not attract ants.

If you follow the strategies outlined on this page, we’re confident that your trash will be ant-free in no time.

Good luck!


About the author

DIY Pest Control Enthusiast Since 1996

After spending the entire night lying awake in a cockroach-infested hotel, I have driven myself to build knowledge on all things pest control. Since then, I've tested pest control techniques to see what works and what doesn't. Now, here I am giving you all the info I have learned!

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